Letter No. 19
June 9th, 1859
“Reina de Castilla”
pp. H.C.M. Stmr.
My dear Robert,
Finding from your letter of April 6th (which, together with that of March 27th, I received a short time ago) that you may be detained for some months yet in India, I enclose press copy of my last of May 21st, which was sent to Plymouth. From it you will observe how my pecuniary difficulties stood. The horizon (as penny-a-liners say) is now brightening. I have managed to but a further lot of goods from my debtor’s agent at Antique to the extent of $3,300; all, however, of exceedingly slow and difficult sale. My eventual loss will not I think be over $1,500, and this, were it not for having so much capital locked up in unsaleable goods, I should not much care for.
Under these circumstances, and while things remain in such an indifferent state, I could not recommend you conscienciously to “join the Union” with your L3,000, as it would be put in at a time when the concern is getting on lamely from the effects of the late blow, and it would not be doing justice to your capital to put a great part of it in to fill up the gap caused by Eyzaquine’s debt. Furthermore, I doubt very much if you could reconcile yourself to living in this place for more than a few months. You would have no one to talk to but ourselves, and your non-knowledge of the Iberian tongue would prevent your taking an active part in the business except perhaps in the way of going to Manila and the provinces in a vessel purchasing produce on spec.
My idea is that a better thing would be for you to go to New Zealand with a small vessel of 200 tons, taking what freight offered. If a better freight offered for Melbourne or Geelong (Ceylon), then go to either of these places. Suppose you go to Melbourne, then put yourself in communication with the Victoria Sugar Company, which if necessary would, I make little doubt, charter you for Iloilo or, at all events, Manila – or if not, other firms there who would be written to about it, might probably do so. If you went to New Zealand you would place yourself in communication with Stuart Kinross & Co. of Wellington. I have written to them explaining the advantages of getting sugar at Iloilo instead of Manila, and from what I know about them, I think they will be very much inclined to go into the trade. It appears that there is a good demand for unclayed sugar in New Zealand, but hitherto it has been imported from Melbourne and not from the Philippines direct. You could see Mr. Stuart and arrange the matter with him. If you went to Melbourne first, you might write to Stuart Kinross & Co. though a personal interview would be better – steamers run between Melbourne and New Zealand every week. I think that if you had funds enough to keep a small vessel going between this place and New Zealand, buying the cargo on your own account you would do well, as the sugar is to be had cheap here.
I think a good trade in sugar might be scared up between this region and New Zealand, and if the thing were found to answer, I would go there myself and set up as a sugar trader. After making a few paying voyages you could also remain at New Zealand in connection with Iloilo, and work ahead generally, provided your capital were somewhat increased and allowed you to do a fair business in sugar and other New Zealand trade.
N.Z. is also a first-rate country for farming and between the two we should be able to find employment for one of your Southampton nephews. If you came to Manila or China from England you would come on here, and go to Australia and New Zealand as above. The voyage between N.Z. and Iloilo should occupy from 30 to 35 days only.
If you into the Navy for about a year, to serve for the additional half-pay – and perhaps this will be your safest course – I should, by the time you were free again, be at home, and we might go out to New Zealand and Australia together if I thought nothing very good could be done by remaining at Liverpool. I don’t know what you will think of this programme, and it depends on what you do think – you ask if a small vessel would do any good on the China coast. I daresay she would find freight, but not I believe at very paying rates. There are a great number of small Hamburg and Danish vessels besides English craft engaged in that line.
The cost of the steamer “Fernando de Norzagaray” formerly intended to ply between here and Manila was $48,000 ready for sea at Boston. She was not delivered to the parties who ordered her owing to a difficulty about funds, and has since been sold to the French for use in the Cochin China war.
A steamer between here and Manila would pay, but you have not capital enough to do it with. I have little doubt there will be a great deal of steam employed in future on the Yangtze Kiang (Yellow River) though the time has not exactly come, and you have not money enough to have a boat there I should think. The “Fernando de Norzagaray” was sent there for sale the other day, but found no purchaser. If you liked you might make a voyage with sugar from hence to Shanghai, with sugar on freight.
Should you think of going into a small vessel shortly and coming here via Australia and New Zealand, or China and Manila, you should time yourself as to arrive here from January to June or July next year. During that time sugar is to be had. The strength of the sugar season is in April. I think that next season we shall do a very fair produce business, as the attention of the merchants is now attracted towards Iloilo, and the crop is to be comparatively large.
I will send some seed to your friend Mr. Kleinknecht or Littleknight as requested, and hope he will succeed in growing no end of hemp, tobacco, and pineapples from it. I doubt, however, if pineapple seed can easily be got – it is propagated by cuttings. I have just been taking a sight at the books, and find that including commissions on the “Pet” and “Camilla” cargoes (only 3 ½%) our commission this year will be about $5,000, that is for one year from last June. Not so bad considering. If I find that the loss and delay in getting funds produced by Eyzaquines debt cripples me too much in making remittances, I shall try to borrow about $5,000 at interest of say 7% p.a. Well, I don’t know that I have much more to say to at this present time, nor will circumstances permit thereof. Isee you are now 41, ten years ahead of me, but you have more in you than I have – not being used up by 15 or 16 years of the tropics. As before said, I am open for a pedestrian tour, any day round England or Europe in general, and will put you on your mettle. I daresay Father would distance us both. I hope you will find Mother in fair health when you get home.
P.S. If you come here, you can see if you would like to stop and join the Union.